My European railway adventure -day 2 Metz to Munich

After France’s win took them through to the final 8 of the World Cup. They’re seemed to be an impromptu celebration in Metz whereby everyone drove around pressing their horns…….until 2AM! Despite the noise and the hotel wanting me to pay the bill twice I’m suitably refreshed and on the move again travelling from Metz to Forbach then crossing the border into Germany to Saarbrucken on local trains. Quite the opposite of the UK where London commuters from Tory strongholds travel into the City on by far the best commuter trains in the UK as opposed to 300 people armpit to armpit on a pacer from Labour strongholds into Leeds. (I’m not implying there is a political link). In Paris the TER commuter trains are long but with hard plastic seats and lack the home comforts of an electrostar. In contrast the TER regional trains across France would be a welcome sight to many Northern Rail commuters (pity the many European state railways that run UK franchises including Northern don’t bring some of their own railway environments with them!). Double deck with mix of 2+2 and table seats, standing, pushchair and bike space, large toilets, power sockets and customer information screens and automatic PA announcements. Would not mind a bit of this on Sheffield to Leeds where we get excited when Northern send 2x Pacers during the peak instead of a 2 car! The destruction of most of France and German rail infrastructure during the war led to a positive legacy of investment in the railways with very few bits of Victorian relic infrastructure remaining like on the UK’s network. Most of the network is electrified. All that said however the French railway network does seem incredibly inefficient. For every fixed formation TGV you see, there are 4 or 5 loco hauled trains with lots of run-rounds and shunting still present as part of daily operations. There seems to be depots and freight yards every few miles. Perhaps a legacy of a state run system where cost is historically not as important and in a left socialist setting where unions now make damn sure modernisation does not include scaling back any unnecessary operations.

From Saarbrucken onto a TGV to Mannheim where there are connections to a host of German destinations. Am pleased to say the short 15 minute connection worked and am currently on an ICE high speed service on a 3 hour journey to Munich via Stuggart. The ICE train is a little dated (not on a HST level of dated) in need of a bit of a refresh and the air-con has failed (it’s only 25C outside) but it is relatively spacious and comfortable. I know enough French to get by but my German is poor so am thankful that DB stations, trains and staff have a good level of English which is good considering I’m in a carriage full of American’s.

On arrival in Munich heading for Allianz-Arena (home of Bayern Munich) I encounter planned engineering works on the U- Bahn and a rail replacement bus for part of the journey. I couldn’t imagine TfL closing a huge chunk of the Northern Line on a weekday yet it seems normal in Germany. I had a similar encounter in Central Berlin last year.

One positive of German railways is that they radiate out of a central terminus ( hauptbahnof) with long distance trains at street level, S -Bahn commuter services at lower level and underground U-Bahn at a level below this. I’m not sure how much space would be needed in London to have a central station but those landowning elite who were against the railways coming into the heart of the city in Victorian times have a lot to answer for London’s edge of city mainline stations. The German hauptbahnof are like small towns with shops and food a plenty rather then the UK’s overpriced select service partner franchises.

A legacy of almost complete destruction in the war but infrastructure seems so modern in Germany like it was built for the purpose in mind and the planners actually thought about the end user. I expect that’s why the UK is so Eurosceptic. We can’t be having any of them modern trains or Airports from the continent here!

P

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